Need weekend plans? Desert crater hike or scavenger hunt


By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Hello, adventurers. This week, before I get to an otherworldly crater in the desert and a retro glacier, I’d like to ask you a few questions.

What do you look for in a travel newsletter? Unusual travel ideas and / or longer and more immersive readings? How far do you generally like to travel for your weekend adventures? Remember to fill in this survey so we know how to satisfy your travel habits in the months to come.

Now on to the fun stuff …

Sip and cruise in Long Beach

Wine tasting is a great weekend getaway. But wine tasting in a gondola is even better.

Last month, Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds included Long Beach’s Gondola getaway on his list of 21 local destinations where Southern Californians can taste Europe. Gondola Getaway, which offers tours around the island of Naples, says it has “the largest and most unique fleet of Venetian craft in the world, outside, of course, of Venice itself.” This is fitting, given Long Beach’s status as a “city of friendship” in Venice, Italy.

While cruising around the island of Naples, visitors to Gondola Getaway can book a tasting experience to taste wines from Caves of the Seven Angels, accompanied by a vineyard expert. The tasting is synchronized with the gondola ride – as the boat sails under each of the five decks, a new wine will be opened.

Wine cruises can be booked for $ 50 per person, with a minimum of eight guests and a maximum of 13.

A couple take a romantic gondola ride around the Island of Naples at Long Beach.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Heading to the desert this spring? Don’t miss the impressive 1,500 foot diameter crater less than an hour north of Joshua Tree.

Amboy crater national natural monument is an ancient ash-cone volcano that last erupted 10,000 years ago, Times contributor Matt Pawlik reports in our guide to the best desert hikes in Southern California. He recommends visitors take a 3½-mile round-trip hike starting at Crater Road and Route 66 into the Mojave Trails National Monument.

The hike will take you through a lava field to the rim of the crater, where you’ll see the Bullion and Bristol mountain ranges to the west and east, Pawlik explains. Before you go, be sure to explore the 1,500-foot-diameter caldera of the national natural monument.

If you go, bring plenty of water and watch out for high temperatures.

View of Amboy crater and wild flowers.

The extinct volcano erupted 10,000 years ago and can now be explored on a hike through a lava field.

(Matt Pawlik; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

💎 Treasure hunt in Coalinga

A few weeks ago, reader Martin You contacted to recommend the Benitoite mining company in Coalinga, where he and his wife spent several hours at benitoites, The jewel of the State of California.

“The friendliness of the staff really made our experience even more enjoyable,” You said in an email. Staff taught him to search for gemstones and use black lights to identify benitoites.

If you decide to take the plunge into benitoite mining, exercise patience and elbow grease. The Benitoite Mining Co. website notes that although most visitors find something while searching for gemstones, only 1 in 20 people find a valuable gem. “We can’t guarantee you will find something, but the people who work the hardest usually do the best,” the site says.

The Benitoite Mining Co. is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, reservation only. Entrance costs $ 100 per person; bring your own lawn chairs, lunch, water and sunscreen.

An illustration of geometric gemstones

Look for the Gem of the State of California at Benitoite Mining Co. in Coalinga.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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🍦 The ultimate ice cream stop on the road

Planning a trip to Big Sur, Morro Bay, Avila Beach, or another Central Coast town this summer? Consider stopping off at one of the Doc Burnstein Ice Cream Lab locations for the ultimate pleasure of road tripers: a scoop of motor oil ice cream.

I recently tried the Kahlúa dark chocolate and ice cream flavor on a return trip to Los Angeles from San Luis Obispo. The boutique’s flagship location in Arroyo Grande serves up a healthy dose of nostalgia in addition to inventive flavors. The toy train that spun under the ceiling of the store was a special delight for children and the kind-hearted who waited in the socially distant queue.

Lounges owned by Doc Burnstein can also be found in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria and Sacramento. Impossible to hit the road? You can take a virtual tour of Doc Burnstein’s locations here.

Ice cream scoops inside a Doc Burnstein ice cream shop.

Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab is a favorite stop along the California coast.

(Caroline Ryon; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

What i read

  • Ready to travel again? You are not the only one considering a road trip in a national park, writes Hugo Martín, economic reporter for The Times.
  • The section of Highway 1 near Big Sur that collapsed has reopened. Times photographer Brian van der Brug has captured images of the panoramic views that await you.
  • As we resume the journey, here is a guide to wrap light, courtesy of Jane Sung in Condé Nast Traveler.
  • Hiking in a desert park? Jennifer Prince explains how to help preserve the landscape in National Geographic.
  • Dracula’s Castle in Romania now offers free COVID-19 vaccines to visitors, reports Rachel Chang in Travel + Leisure.
  • Hundreds of people browse the “AT [Appalachian Trail] from Italy. “Agostino Petroni explain why in The Outdoors Online.
  • You can sleep in an Airbnb Rescue Tower in Arroyo Grande. Freda Moon writes on his experience of staying there at SFGATE.
  • Can rusty locomotives and crumbling stations become an efficient transport network again? Pesha Magid reports on the savings challenge Lebanon’s famous rail system in Atlas Obscura.

Illustration of a carefully packed suitcase.

Need help learning to travel light? U.S. too.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

Can’t venture to IRL? Here’s a way to broaden your horizons

Angkor, one of Southeast Asia’s most valuable archaeological sites, includes the remains of the capitals of the Khmer Empire dating back to the 800s. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 2 million people a year visited Angkor Archaeological Park, making it one of Cambodia’s most popular destinations.

Now virtual travelers can step back in time and explore the park with the award-winning project Virtual angkor, created by archaeologists, historians and visual history experts from Australia, Cambodia and the United States. By clicking on several 360 videos and scenes, viewers can see precise depictions of life at certain points in Angkor’s history.

Photo of the week

Gull Lake in the Eastern Sierra.

Gull Lake, on the June Lake Loop, is one of the endless escape options in the Eastern Sierra.

(Bryce Miller / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Song of the road

Could a new Lorde album land this year? It’s up to anyone to guess. This week I leave you with one of my all-time favorite driving anthems: “Green light, “of 2017” Melodrama. “✌️

A photo of Lorde playing.

Lorde’s ‘green light’ is a favorite of road trips.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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